Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday says his goal is to be more efficient this season


Jrue Holiday had a good season last year — he was an All-Star who averaged 17.7 points and 8 assists a game. He took on a lot more of the Philadelphia offense and produced some good numbers.

But not efficient ones — he shot 43.1 percent overall, a respectable 36 percent from three but he didn’t get to the line a lot and he turned the ball over more than you would like. The result was at PER of 16.7 (not far above the league average) and a True Shooting Percentage (essentially points per shot attempt counting free throws and threes) of 49.6, again well below the league average.

Holiday is excited about what is being built in New Orleans, where he was traded and pairs up with Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and other young, talented players. But he knows he needs to be more efficient, he told Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy.

“I’m excited, man,” Holiday said. “Obviously, I’m in the right place. … I feel we’ll grow together because all of us have three- or four-year contracts and all of us are going to learn with each other, learn each other’s ways and tendencies. From there, big things can happen….

Holiday says that he’s determined to “be more efficient” next year, which is a good goal for the young point guard…

“He had Chris Paul,” Holiday said of (Pelicans coach Monty) Williams, who coached Paul in New Orleans during the 2010-11 season. “So from a coaching standpoint, he can help make me more efficient and better as a point guard. I’m just going to continue learning every day.”

For Holiday to become more efficient, reducing turnovers is the start — 17.3 percent of the possessions he used last season ended in a turnover. He will have the ball a lot, that number has to come down.

The other key is to finish better. Last season Holiday shot 52 percent in the restricted area and 35.5 percent in the rest of the key. He has a nice midrange jumper (particularly on the left side of the court) and you have to respect him from three, but if you drive the lane you have to have the threat of a finish to really make it work. Holiday didn’t do that and it has to change. Finish and a lot of things open up.

It’s going to be a bit of a learning process in New Orleans this year, but they have one of the most intriguing young rosters in the league. If the franchise is patient and waits a couple years for this all to meld — and if it does meld — there could be something special going on in the Big Easy. And part of it melding is Holiday becoming more efficient — that he understands it is a big first step.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.